Hi all, I am pleased to bring you another book review in partnership with Worldwind Virtual Book Tours! This time I read Aquarius Rising, a sci-fi novel which won the 2014 EPIC eBook award for science fiction!
On an Earth ravaged by climate change, and a disastrous attempt to reverse it, human-dolphin hybrids called Aquarians have built thriving reef colonies among the drowned cities of the coast. Now their world is under siege from an enemy above the waves whose invisible weapon leaves no survivors. Ocypode of Tillamook is an Atavism: half-human and half-Aquarian, marooned in the genetic limbo between species. Only he knows why the colonies north and south of Tillamook Reef have been destroyed, literally turned to stone. Ocypode knows that Tillamook will be targeted next, but sharing the reason might prove as deadly to Aquarius as the Medusa plague itself.
Ocypode and his Aquarian and human comrades flee into the open ocean to escape Medusa, until another Aquarian’s treachery leaves them at the mercy of a killer storm. Ocypode must pass through the Electric Forest, where he faces nightmarish creatures and a legendary sea witch who becomes an ally. Finally, he must confront the cyber-ghost of the human he most despises: Peter Cydon, the Great Father who bioengineered the mutagenic virus that gave birth to the Aquarian species. These unlikely allies provide the only chance to stop the Redeemers, rogue scientists who are determined to resurrect the land by slaughtering the sea. Even these allies will not be enough, and Ocypode must decide whom to trust with a secret as lethal as any plague.
So first and foremost I will admit that this book isn’t exactly my cup of tea. I do enjoy science fiction, young adult fiction, and my suspension of believe allowance falls is high enough for me to enjoy books like the Harry Potter Series (Books 1-7) and films like Ginger Snaps, but not quite high enough for me to be able to gleefully indulge in The Twilight Saga or Bermuda Tentacles. Aquarius Rising falls, for better or for worse, in the muddled area in between for me.
Genetically modified human/dolphin hybrids that exist largely without ground dweller interference because the polar ice caps have melted and the land above the sea is subject to intense radiation? . . . Yeah, that’s a new one, all right. The concept is unique as far as dystopian fiction that I have read goes. (This is especially true when we get into the Aquarian technology like the living reef and their system of memory sharing!) Overall, the concepts are fresh and the technology utilized by the characters is different enough to be interesting.
The book wasn’t one of my favorites as I mentioned above, but that could be for several reasons. As I am sure you’re familiar, a sci-fi novel that tries to build an entire world can lose steam quickly, and I didn’t get tied to the characters well enough early on to enjoy the sometimes lengthy internal monologues which were dedicated to establishing this world. Add to this the lack of any intense sequences or traditionally scary elements that I had hoped for after reading the above synopsis and the fact that it will take two additional books to complete the story arc . . . I’ll pass. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the limited action scenes enough to warrant a higher rating in this category.
Writing Style 2/5
Given my title of ‘B Movie Goddess’ here at Gores Truly and my self-proclaimed self-assessment that I am a nerd of all trades this might sound absurd, but many of the elements of story telling which were used and the campy word choice prompted this low rating. Science Fiction prose is prone to choosing odd or unpronounceable character names (Teal’c and company are just one example!) That being said and understood, I didn’t like the frequency of Latin names which were used for everything from characters to locations. Even though the society was started by a scientist, I don’t like the Aquarians using names from a language that is dead to our society when their whole existence occurs post-us. The only parallel I can think of which would bother me just as much is if we named our children in hieroglyphics.
(Though with emoji use on the rise . . . )
It really bothered me that the characters were quite willing to call sea life by the name of whales and jellyfish, but still felt the need to revert back to Latin when naming their cities and young. (Maybe ‘Ocypode’ sounds less absurd in Aquarian?) Beyond that, the repeated reverent references to ‘mother ocean’ grew stale quickly. These seemingly little gripes when combined with the long monologue use as a plot device did detract from my experience with the book quite a lot, which is why I rated it low in this area.
Writing Flow 4/5
The writing which spanned periods of time across the same characters were relatively seamless, but the shifts between characters could be jarring. The fact that Burt took care to establish the timeline and make sure that each character’s piece made sense as far as the timeline went helped to improve the flow, and showing the perspective of different characters certainly was useful from a storytelling stand point so as to make it easier on the reader to see different parts of the puzzle. (Which is important in a YA novel.)
Character Description 4/5 & Scene Description 5/5
The description in the book is vivid, but you’ll have to wait for it. Descriptions of characters aren’t immediately given and in most cases occur much later than I, personally, would have wanted them. (For instance, detailed descriptions of what exactly an Atavism is in this scenario or what they look like was not offered when Ocypode was introduced as one, so the reader is forced to Google and wait. (I think that having that sort of information earlier would improve the reader’s experience and understanding.)
Scene descriptions, on the other hand, were perfectly evocative of the ocean. Some of the passages in the novel had me missing treks to the aquarium and other such ventures – which I think is the best that a book set underwater can really hope for. The scenes of the destroyed cities and the damage done by the Medusa plague were equally descriptive as those of the open ocean which says quite a lot about the writer’s capability.
Overall Rating 4/5
This is one of those times when my review feels a lot like I’m saying ‘I didn’t like it, but it’s probably a really good book.’ So I’ll summarize with that. The book is rated very well on Goodreads, Amazon and won the EPIC eBook Science Fiction award so I feel justified in giving it a high rating even though I didn’t enjoy it much, personally. I recognize it is a well-written book; I just couldn’t get into it as much as I had hoped.
About the Author
Brian Burt works as an information security engineer in West Michigan, where some of his most bizarre flights of fancy wind up in threat assessments. He’s been blessed with a wife and three boys who tolerate his twisted imagination and even encourage it. He enjoys reading, cycling, hiking, horseplay, red wine, and local micro-brews (so hopefully the virtues balance the vices, more or less). At every opportunity, he uses his sons as an excuse to act like an overgrown kid (which is why his wife enjoys rum, school days, and migraine medication).
Brian has published more than twenty short stories in various markets, including print magazines, anthologies, and electronic publications. He won the L. Ron Hubbard Gold Award in 1992 for his short story, “The Last Indian War,” which was anthologized in Writers of the Future Volume VIII. His story “Phantom Pain” received an Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Tenth Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. He’s a card-carrying member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. His debut novel,Aquarius Rising: In the Tears of God, won the 2014 EPIC eBook Award for Science Fiction. Book 2 of the Aquarius Rising trilogy, Blood Tide, is scheduled for release from Double Dragon Publishing in 2015.
Where to Purchase Aquarius Rising
You can also follow the entire Aquarius Rising tour HERE.
Brought to you by Worldwind Virtual Book Tours.